Friday, February 26, 2010

2010 First Full Squad Workout

"Boy, it sure is quiet out here!!" shouted Adam Dunn while fielding grounders at 1st Base on the practice fields in Viera, Florida this morning. A new look version of Our Washington Nationals were participating in their very first full-squad practice of 2010 and everything surrounding the 2 & 1/2 hour training session was serious. Smiling faces all around, but not a lot of fooling around. A determination that business was at hand.

"There is a completely different feel to this camp than any I have participated in over the past four seasons," stated Jason Bergmann. "Mike Rizzo, (Our General Manager) has done a wonderful job of changing the landscape here. I've never been more excited for spring training to begin."

On this Friday, February 26th, 35 pitchers, 6 catchers, 10 infielders, 9 outfielders alongside 20 Coaches & Managers worked through the first Full Spring Workout of Washington's 2010 roster. There was precision to the operation today that was not lost on The African Queen and I. From stretching, to warming up, the infield drills, the bullpen sessions followed by live batting practice--Our Manager Jim Riggleman stood watching like a general in charge--moving around--letting his trusted lieutenants conduct the lessons--all the while keeping a firm grip on the day's proceedings. The African Queen and I can't really describe how different today was than anything we witnessed over the past three seasons attending spring training. But it was noticed by most everyone we talked to. Getting the bunt down, doing your running, making sure a fielder is covering the bag--those little things seemed to matter today.

Nationals Fans Darlene & Dave from Manassas noticed the difference.

Even a wily old veteran commented on the atmosphere.

"I've been to many a training camps in my career," Eddie Guardado offered up to Sohna. "This one is as serious as any I've been a part of for the first week. Even the guys that have been around this team for a while are getting right down to business. I respect that as I believe in the same approach."

On and on it went this morning at Our Washington Nationals Spring Training Facility in Central Florida--the pop of baseball hitting a mitt, the crack of the bat and the yell of "I've Got It!!" all set the scene. Major League Baseball was back in full swing and The African Queen and I were having a wonderful time just catching up with many that we haven't seen over the winter months.

As has always been the case at Nationals Spring Training--the access to players for autographs and pictures was terrific. A few new rules have been set in place to make the workouts conducive for both players and fans. Stephen Strasburg signed autographs for fans after practice concluded along the first base side of field number one. Many more waited for Pudge Rodriguez but after a TV interview--he jumped in a golf cart and was driven back to the clubhouse. The sight of about 50 folks waiting in line patiently for their few moments with a player--really nice to see. No pushing, shoving, and getting in each other's way. Additionally, there are temporary rope lines now set up to allow players to move from field to field between sessions. But once the workouts begin anew--the ropes comes down and free access to the field perimeters continue.

Of course, those rope lines didn't deter a funny personal moment. Nyjer Morgan is jogging with Justin Maxwell between fields when he spots Sohna standing behind a dugout. He momentarily stops and bellows out--"There she is!! There she is!! There's The African Queen!! He, he!!"--while pointing excitedly at her. "We'll catch up later!!" Then proceeds to chuckle all the way over to field number two. Tony Plush was a fan favorite for EVERYONE today. He never turns off the smile with fans around.

Other anecdotes from today's first full squad workout:

Livan Hernandez actually look liked he's lost some weight. He threw a bullpen session today and later stopped on this way back to Space Coast Stadium for a good five minute chat with us. And reeled off one of the best lines we heard all day. That conversation transcript coming up later this evening. Additionally, Livo signed autographs for EVERYONE!! So did Matt Capps, Jason Bergmann, Wil Nieves, Jordan Zimmermann, Jesus Flores and even Strasburg--among those we witnessed. Our Young Number 37 probably spent a good 10 minutes pleasing those on hand--under watchful eye of communications staff. Good for him.

Speaking of Strasburg--wherever he went, the fans followed. The Pied Pipper of Our Washington Nationals.

We watched Scott Olsen, John Lannan, Eddie Guardado, Jason Bergmann and Garrett Mock throw batting practice. Olsen was throwing free and easy--not hard as he's coming back from surgery--but he looked comfortable on the mound. That's a good start for a potential number three starter in 2010.

Ross Detwiler was clearly disappointed over his recent hip surgery. Our Number 48 was hobbling around on crutches watching the action on the fields. "I was really taken back when the diagnosis came. My hip was hurting for a long time. I just didn't realize how bad things were. Once I got here, things didn't get any better." Detwiler went on to say he's already rehabbing but will not be doing any baseball activities for a good six weeks. "Hopefully, in three months, I can be back on the mound and ready to go. I've lost some time, but I'm not out." But Ross Dewiler was definitely disappointed in the setback.

Sohna and I loved meeting Don from New Brunswick, Canada. A life long Montreal Expos Fan who has never forgotten his team and now has come to Viera each of the past two seasons to watch Nationals Spring Training. "They are my team and I've never lost sight of that." Don will spend one full month watching spring training and 17 Nationals games in March. His wife will join him later this weekend. A really pleasant man and dedicated reader of Nats320. With his trusty sitting stool in tow, Don moved around from field to field intently watching the action.

Finally--The Quote Of The Day.

While chatting with Jason Bergmann for a interview to be posted later, John Dever--Senior Director of Baseball Communications stops by. "You know this man (Jason) is the answer to a terrific trivia question: Who is the career pitching strikeout leader for The Washington Nationals? Few would know that."

Sure enough, It's true. Jason Bergmann is the answer. Our Number 57 smiles a little sheepishly and says: "Yeah, but I want to be known for more than that."

Speaking of more, that Livan Hernandez chat and a few more interviews coming later this evening from day one of the Full Squad Workout from Viera, Florida.

All pictures copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

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